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Ashley Solomon, Psy.D is a psychologist who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, body image, trauma, and serious mental illness.

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Tag: yoga

11 Jan

You Should Know :: My Yoga Online

You Should Know 3 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

I would like to tell you that as my body has grown and expanded with pregnancy, my yoga practice has done so as well. Unfortunately, dishonesty doesn’t align too well with the principles of yoga, so I’ll tell you that it’s been more challenging to keep up with a consistent practice these days.

It’s actually not my changing body, illness, or fatigue that’s to blame. Instead, it’s the financial and convenience factors. Between career, baby-preparation, and the holidays, it’s hard to find time to make it to a class, especially when the prenatal classes are few and far between. (FYI: It can be safe to do other types of classes with certain modifications, but I decided to play it safe by sticking to ones that keep in mind the pregnant body.) Plus, yoga classes tend to be pretty pricey. When trying to be conservative with spending, classes can really add up.

So when I was offered a free membership to My Yoga Online, I decided to try it out. I figured that it at the very least it might give me a bit of inspiration to renew my practice, and perhaps it might even give me some good resources to refer to for poses.

I quickly found a number of prenatal yoga videos featuring both full-length classes and short clips of particular poses. Before this, I’d been alternating two prenatal yoga DVDs I had at home and I could recite both of them by heart. While repetition can be valuable in yoga, I was finding myself pretty bored and uninspired. Yeah, yeah, yeah… stretch your neck, arch your back… yeah, yeah, yeah. So coming across some new material was great.

There are of course tons of non-prenatal videos as well (this is actually just a small section). They are broken down into categories ranging from “Distress” to “Hatha” to “Yoga at Work” (I have yet to do downward dog while listening to a patient, but who knows?). You can also save videos as “favorites” so you can come back to them again and again.

One thing that I have missed in doing my at-home DVDs is the sense of connection to not only self, but others, that comes with doing yoga. My Yoga Online offers a chance to connect with the rest of the community through a blog, member profiles, and member posts. I haven’t taken advantage of these features yet, but I think they could be a great way to gain both the convenience of at-home yoga and the connection of a community.

The site also features some interesting content that’s worth checking out as well. I found some read-worthy articles on topics like having a more self-nurturing holiday and how the food affects the brain (you know I was all over that one…).  There are recipes to try (peanut butter and banana cream pancakes, hello!) and tips on living more green.

If you’re curious about yoga or a long-term practitioner, I’d suggest giving the site a whirl. You can even get a free two week trial by visiting this link. As always, please be sure to check with any health care providers to make sure it’s safe for you to practice.

 

 

10 Jan

Four Keys to Setting Intentions for the Year Ahead

Ideas to Consider 3 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

If you’ve been trolling the internet since the turn of the new year, or you’re a member of the human race and don’t live in a remote village in Uganda (and  maybe even then), you’ve been a victim of resolution overload. You’ve heard that your mother-in-law plans to lose the wiggle in her arms (despite how cute you assure her it is) and you’re co-worker is resolved to bike to work four times per week.

You? Maybe you’re just trying to get through the next hour. I know I am.

And that’s where intentions come in. Unlike resolutions, or even goals, intentions allow you to create a shift right now. They focus us away from our desired future outcome and back to our present sense of being in this moment. Intentions are filled with what is most important to us — they draw upon our values and align them with a shift that we can make today. If you’re ready to dig in a bit further, remember these important points in setting an intention.

intentionflower

{via pinterest; orginally from dustjacket}

 1 – Intentions are stated in the present tense.

We’re refocusing our gaze from the horizon back to our own heart. We state our intention as if it is true. We know that our words are incredibly powerful, and thus we our actually having a powerful effect on reality by asserting what we are working on cultivating. For example, rather than saying, “I feel anxious, and I don’t want to feel that anymore,” we want to say, “I feel calm and in control.” Do you really feel calm in that moment of anxiety? Maybe not totally, but calmness is a piece of your truth in that moment (you’re not so not calm that you are unable to set the intention, right?). Stating your intention in this way allows you to grow your own power to direct your reality.

2 – Intentions have no use for judgment.

This is true when it comes to judging ourselves and others. We don’t create intentions in order to then evaluate how much we are “failing” at them. In fact, you cannot fail at an intention. That’s what makes it something you are intending! Take my intention of being present in conversations with others. As soon as I start getting frustrated with myself that my mind has started wandering when talking to my friend, I simultaneously recognize that I am aware of my mind wandering – and that awareness is a major part of being present and continuing to stay connected. If you find yourself judging your ability to live your intention, just notice that thought and come back to the intention.

3 – Understand that change requires some very specific conditions.

If you’re setting an intention with the hope of changing your life in some substantial way, remember that a few things are required. Beyond cultivating a desire in yourself, you’ll need to bring along the right support and a sack full of patience. Find others that can support you in your intention – and let go of those who cannot.

4 – Start living your intention.

A living intention is one that is vital, full of energy, and marked by action. Once you’ve settled on the intention you’d like to set for yourself, you can determine what commitments you can make in service of that intention. This is where you can decide concrete steps you’ll take to feel your intention’s heart beating. If you’re intention is to understand yourself better, now decide how you’ll do this – starting therapy, keeping a journal, exploring your creative side through a vision board. And then you can nail it down even more. Think, “What’s one single thing I can do today to move me in the direction of my intention?”

As you’re delving deeper into your journey of intention, be sure to check in with not only your mind, but your body as well. Your body will signal to you how your intention feels. Does it feel tight or heavy? Or does it feel peaceful and open? Notice any sensations that emerge and be gentle with yourself. If it doesn’t feel right, let it float away.

Cheers to a year full of good intentions! What are you intending this year?

[For more fantastic inspiration,  check out Margarita’s thoughts at Weightless on setting authentic intentions!]

17 Aug

Being Unbalanced and Falling Over In Yoga {Self-Discovery, Word by Word}

Word by Word 7 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

When I use the word balance in a group with my patients, I can often expect a collective groan.

“Balance schmalence,” they say. “We know, we know… it’s all about this elusive balance.” And then there are often some eyerolls and incredulous looks. Their eyes asking, Is that the best you got?

Yes, yes it is.

The older, and hopefully wiser, that I get, the more that I understand that it really all comes down the simply stated (but not simply implemented) concept of creating balance. But before we can create balance, we have to create a willingness to be unbalanced. Sound a little funny?

I recognized this idea in myself the other day while practicing yoga. (The other thing I understand as I get older is that yoga is truly the key to all understanding, but that’s another post.) Our teacher for the class was guiding us into sirsha-asana, a yogic headstand. It’s a classic yoga pose, and one that emphasizes balance and vitality (and reportedly even promotes hair growth, but I don’t know about all that…).

It’s also really hard. Now, it’s not the pose itself that’s challenging – though it of course takes a bit of basic practice – but rather the idea of it. As I listened to the teacher walk us gently through the process of achieving the full height of the pose, I found myself looking around the room with bulging eyes, certain that there was no way in hell my feet were going above my head like that.

I quickly remembered that one of my intentions for yoga was to focus only on my own experience and practice not comparing, so I returned my attention to my body and began attempting the pose. As I settled into a kneeling pose and rested my head firmly on the ground, I observed that familiar sense of panic spread through my body. What if I fall over? What if my falling over causes someone else to fall over? What if my too tight pants rip? What if I make a fool of myself? What if I get a concussion and can’t work?What if…?

I was caught in a space of unwillingness in that moment. I knew – or rather, I thought I knew – that I wasn’t so good at balance poses. And my buying into these thoughts was creating a hole in my sense of willingness to let myself fail – or succeed, for that matter.

I realized that there was absolutely no way to practice my balance pose if I wasn’t willing to become unbalanced. And so I summoned up every ounce of acceptance that I could and gently began lifting my knees off the floor. My abdominal muscles were screaming, but not louder than my mind telling me I was going to crash. But I let my mind (and muscles) yammer on as I pushed myself into the air.

And then I fell.

I tried again. And I fell. I tried a third time. And I fell. I didn’t make it up that day. But I did make it up a little farther, my legs extending a couple more inches in the air and for a few more seconds without falling.

And then we moved into another set of poses and I allowed myself to move on with my body and mind.

I won’t tell you that I wasn’t frustrated, or that I’ve now mastered the pose (because I haven’t). But I did grow in those moments of discomfort. I grew not only a couple inches and few seconds, but in my ability to reach beyond what my reliance on what is stable and “true.”

And in that space of being willing to feel off center, unsteady, and to come crashing into the unknown, I found a second of balance.

This post was written as part of the Self-Discovery, Word by Word series. This month’s host is Myrite at Tasty Life and she’s chosen the word balance for the blogging community to reflect upon. Please check out this post to learn more!

{image credit :: yogamoma.co.uk}

06 Oct

Suspending Judgment in Yoga

Exercise 16 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

After years of hearing about the life-changing benefits of yoga, including improved stamina, strength, flexibility, and even body image, I still had never gotten up the courage to try shaping my body into a pretzel (or a dog or cat or anything else un-human like). However, while on a recent vacation, I decided that I would step out of my proverbial comfort zone – the Marriott – and try something I have never done: I went to a full-fledged yoga studio.

I should probably explain that I have never before taken a “real” yoga class, at least not completed one. I don’t count the one class I attended at a gym a few years ago. Has someone’s voice ever grated on you so much that you thought you would rip your hair out? This was the situation with the instructor, and and I just had to get out of there fast (you understand, right?). Unfortunately, I left my clueless husband meditating on the floor, looking like a peaceful little Buddha. So what that I had dragged him along? He would understand that that Ms. Yogi Sunshine in there and I just didn’t mesh.

I hadn’t taken a yoga class since. Not out of disinterest, but out of becoming overly comfortable with my typical routine (consisting mostly of running) and a bit of fear that if I ran out of one more class, I would soon end up on some “no admit list” in every studio in the eastern United States.

But I decided that it was time to get back in the saddle and give yoga another shot. How hard could it be, really? Plus, I had been having a rough couple of weeks and figured I could use an hour or so of centering myself and getting back in tune with my body. My fears about falling on my face during downward dog would just have to be tackled head on, so to speak.

When I showed up at the studio, my intimidation factor spiked. The studio was located on the third floor of a posh-looking building in area that was clearly trendier than my five-year-old sneakers indicated I was. I looked down at what I was wearing with a bit of regret – a semi-tight-fitting tee-shirt and gym shorts – not exactly yoga attire.

Three other students milled around the waiting room sporting their adorable little lululemon outfits and carrying their mats in various soft colors. I didn’t even have with me the bright blue plastic mat I’d bought at Target a year ago in was one of those efforts to buy the equipment first, hoping the inspiration to use it would come later. (It didn’t.) The other students introduced themselves and all remarked about how long they had been practicing – six years minimum. Oh crap… I started to wonder whether this was really the beginner class I had thought it was.

After several minutes of waiting (I could tell that no one was quite as concerned with the time as I was), the teacher finally came out to gather us for the class. She took one look at me and said, “Oh. Hi. And where are you from? You haven’t been here before.” in a voice that whispered of condescension. It could have been my self-consciousness, but I’m still convinced it my gym shorts.

I replied somewhat sheepishly that no, I hadn’t been there. In fact, I’ve never really done yoga before.

“At all? Like… ever?”

“Nope!” I replied a little too eagerly.

Her eyebrows arched in a way that made me reach for my shoes to bolt out the door. But she stopped me and said, “Well, it’s an advanced class, but we’ll give it a shot. I won’t kick you out. Yet.” She smiled and I prayed that this was her not-so-cute sense of humor. How was I supposed to know the little “A” by the listing meant “Advanced?” I thought it meant it was for “Average” people. Like me.

We headed in to the studio room and I caught my breath. The studio was shaped in a large circle with windows on every wall overlooking the ocean. It was almost sunset and the effect was surreal. Okay, I thought, this is going to be just what I need – relaxing and rejuvenating. My fears started to subside. I was thrilled to get to reconnect with nature and myself.

All I seemed to reconnect with, however, was the floor. As soon as the class started, I realized I was in a bit over my head. The three other students were reaching over well beyond their toes as my own back made a loud cracking noise and my hands barely grazed my knees. What the hell I am doing here, I questioned.

Just as I was about to make this my second yoga walk-out, the instructor told us to set an intention for our practice. I quickly decided that my intention was to suspend judgment of myself during the next hour. I figured I tended to judge and put pressure on myself constantly, so I could commit to spending at least the next 60 minutes free of judgment. This was a turning point.

Over the next 55 or so minutes, whenever my mind would begin to fill with self-doubt, criticism at my own inflexibility, jealousy of the other students’ quick, fluid movements, and feelings of utter defeat, I would remind myself that I had committed to not judging myself. I decided that I could laugh at myself, but I could not judge. So I laughed. A lot.

As the teacher quickly (very quickly) moved through a series of poses, the names of which I only wish I could understand, much less recall, I desperately tried to keep up. I’d look to the other students as models, trying to conform my bodies to slightly resemble theirs. I was quickly dripping sweat, while the others looked cool, calm, and peaceful. I wanted to look cool, calm, and peaceful! Not like someone who was trying to run a marathon in Nevada in August. But I just laughed. No judgment, I repeated in my head.

When the teacher asked us to put our legs over our shoulders and support our entire weight with our hands, I really laughed. Like out loud. Kind of inappropriately. She looked at me and stated shortly, “Not you. Don’t try this.” As if she had to tell me… I started to feel embarrassed to be singled out, but then reminded myself of my no judgment rule and focused on the fact that I was grateful for a short breather. I collected my breath as I stood and watched the other students twist their bodies like acrobats.

When the class was (somewhat thankfully) over, I tried to sneak out quietly, hoping to preserve the last of my dignity. But I was caught by one of the other students who jogged up behind me. He patted me on the back and said with a warm smile, “Nice job in there! I never could have done that class when I was just starting out. Awesome!” I wasn’t sure if he was just being nice or genuinely thought my effort was commendable. But I decided it didn’t matter. I would suspend judgment for one more minute, say “thank you,” and give him my most relaxed, yogic smile.

NTS-Medium

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